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Rabbani for dialogue to lower political temperature

Updated February 23, 2018

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ISLAMABAD: Visibly upset over the ongoing confrontation between the ruling party and the judiciary, Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani on Thursday called for initiating dialogue among state institutions “to lower the temperature” as senators from different parties, including those sitting on the opposition benches, expressed their dismay over the Supreme Court’s latest judgement removing Nawaz Sharif from the office of PML-N president.

“Confrontation (among institutions) will lead the country nowhere. There is a need for dialogue among institutions to lower the temperature,” Mr Rabbani remarked when some of the senators asked him to play his role in the ongoing crisis developed in the country due to the confrontation between the government and the judiciary.

Interestingly, Senator Farhatullah Babar whose Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was among the petitioners who had challenged the Elections Act, 2017, was also among those who expressed their reservations over the Supreme Court’s verdict.

“The judgement cannot be applauded as it has the potential to increase political instability in the country,” said Mr Babar, who is also the secretary general as well as the official spokesperson for his party.

Senators concerned over SC verdict

Mr Babar’s remarks clearly indicated a division within the PPP and confirmed the reports that there were a number of senior leaders in the party who were against the leadership’s decision of becoming a party in the petitions as they believed that by doing so they would themselves be inviting the court to encroach upon parliament’s jurisdiction.

The opposition Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) also lamented the apex court’s verdict, saying that it had put a question mark over the issue of parliament’s supremacy besides under­mining its power to do legislation.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP) was of the opinion that such a decision was not a good omen for democracy and parliament. He said it was the right of the party members and workers to choose their president and no other institution should have the powers to make such decisions.

Mr Kakar repeated the allegation raised by his party chief Mehmood Khan Achakzai in the National Assembly a few days ago that the military was directly interfering in political matters in Balochistan and a brigadier was supervising the Senate election process. He alleged that a “conspiracy against democracy” was ready and its implementation started with the change of government in the province.

The PkMAP senator said that legislation was the job of parliament and all other institutions, including the Supreme Court, were bound to implement the laws made by parliament.

Farhatullah Babar said although Nawaz Sharif was largely responsible for the situation created as a result of the latest SC verdict, he could not applaud the verdict as a triumph for anyone and as a member of parliament he could not rejoice over it.

“The verdict has enlarged the scope of Articles 62 & 63 on one hand and weakened parliament by striking down a law passed by it on the other,” he added.

Mr Babar said for quite some time a whispering campaign was going on suggesting that efforts were afoot to get the polls postponed and pave the way for a government of technocrats for three to four years to eventually rewrite political landscape of the country.

“While abiding by the court’s verdict everyone now must act in a manner to avert instability in the country,” he said.

Responding to Mr Babar’s remarks, the Senate chairman said that he had also been repeatedly warning against undermining of parliament.

“I had been expressing apprehensions for quite sometime but no one paid heed to it. If any untoward situation arises, we will all face it together. Parliament will play its due role to save the federation and advance democracy,” Mr Rabbani said.

Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif of the MQM drew the attention of the house towards the speech of Chief Justice Saqib Nisar delivered at a lawyers’ gathering on Thursday morning, declaring that lawyers were his soldiers, and said that it seemed that the chief justice was implying to say that the lawyers community would support him in case of a clash with the government. He said that the CJP’s speech had reminded them of the time of the former chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

“Such a behaviour and role is a danger for democracy,” the MQM senator said, stressing the need for amending the constitution for creation of a separate Supreme Court comprising impartial judges to take up matters related to the constitution. He said it seemed that the judiciary had some personal animosity with Nawaz Sharif.

Ghous Mohammad Niazi was the only PML-N senator who spoke on the issue, terming the SC’s verdict “regrettable”. He said on one hand, a military dictator was allowed to leave the country and on the other hand, an elected prime minister was thrown out. In an apparent reference to the recent remarks of the chief justice that the constitution was above parliament, Mr Niazi said that “parliament is the mother of the constitution”.

Azam Musakhel of the PkMAP said they did not defend Nawaz Sharif, but the treatment meted out to him was inappropriate.

Published in Dawn, February 23rd, 2018